There is a special dilemma that exists when the affair partners work together.
I was reading somewhere that nearly 75% of men meet their affair partners at work. I can only assume that a similar statistic exists for women as well.
It only makes sense since many people spend almost half of their waking hours at work and with co-workers. Relationships are created and can get out of hand if boundaries are not in place and adhered to.
There is a special dilemma that exists when the affair partners work together though, and we hear about the consequences on a regular basis. It’s the continued contact.
If the affair partners continue to work together – and even if there is 100% proof that the affair is over – it is still a dangerous environment that creates temptation for the unfaithful spouse (CS), while the betrayed spouse (BS) is left trying to cope with more stress, anxiety and distrust.
Here are some excerpts from various emails we’ve received that demonstrate the dilemmas:
“My husband had an affair with a co-worker. He still works at the same job because there is no chance of finding a position elsewhere. He claims the sexual aspect of the affair is over, but it is obvious that the emotional part is still ongoing. They work on many projects together and there is no possibility of their ending their business relationship.”
“My wife has admitted to an affair with a co-worker and says the affair has ended. However she is very hesitant about going no contact by leaving her job. She is a type “A” personality and is very career-oriented and thinks she can continue to work with this guy. To me it seems her career is more important than our marriage.”
“I caught my husband having an affair with a co-worker. We have decided to stay together but my issue is that I can’t get past it because they still work together. He says he never sees or talks to her but I’m highly skeptical since he has lied so much during all of this. Is it right for me to demand that he find another job? I don’t work so we need his paycheck and without it would mean disaster.”
What stands out to you about these excerpts?
The points that kind of stick out the most to me are the seemingly absolute statements:
- “He still works at the same job because there is no chance of finding a position elsewhere.”
- “They work on many projects together and there is no possibility of their ending their business relationship”
- “To me it seems her career is more important than our marriage.”
- “I don’t work so we need his paycheck and without it would mean disaster.”
These statements demonstrate an attitude that these individuals have no choices in their lives and that nothing can be done to improve or change the situation.
Having the affair involved choices, so now finding a way to recover and protect what’s left of the marital relationship requires choices. True, the consequences of those choices may indeed suck really bad, but choices do exist, nevertheless.
So what are some of the consequences and tradeoffs when the affair partners work together?
Here are some possibilities…
If the unfaithful spouse chooses to leave their job for the betterment of their spouse and family they may experience a sudden loss of income, opportunity for professional advancement and/or business opportunities. The loss could be temporary or possibly permanent.
If the unfaithful chooses to place a higher priority on their professional or financial betterment over that of their spouse and family the consequences and tradeoffs affect primarily the BS. First, the BS is going to be pissed as hell that their CS made another disappointing choice and will suffer more pain as they try to deal with the meaning behind the choice.
Secondly, they will suffer from high levels of ongoing distrust, stress, anxiety and suspicion, while interpreting the decision as a sign of a lack of compassion, a lack of caring and as a further rejection.
There is no question that work is an important element in our lives – perhaps too important. But when the affair partners work together the issue is far more significant than the CS simply making a practical decision to stay in the job; it sends a signal that the job is a higher priority than the spouse or the marriage.
We have stated over and over that one of the main elements of a successful recovery after an affair is the strict adherence to the no contact rule. Thus, a primary mission for the parties involved is to be clear about their priorities and to make the proper choices that align with those priorities.
We have communicated with several people in the past who have chosen to take the route of what they felt was most important to their marriage over what was most important to their career and their bank accounts. Their routes included choices to quit jobs, ask for transfers to different locations, or simply packing up and moving to a different city. These choices may seem quite drastic, but they did what they felt they had to do.
Now what if your spouse has a very, very specialized job or there are no other jobs in your area for the unfaithful person?
Licensed clinical psychologist, author, and nationally recognized relationship expert, Dr. Kathy Nickerson suggests the following:
“Most therapists would advocate for you to move and find a new job. I agree that this is the very safest thing to do, but it may not be what you want to do.
If your spouse loves his/her job and you love your home and your kids are happy in school, uprooting everyone might be too much…
Only you can decide if moving is really necessary to help you recover from the affair; if it is, it’s worth doing.
If you want to stay put and your spouse will stay in communication with the affair partner, here’s what I recommend:
- Ask your spouse to limit communication with the affair partner to the greatest extent possible. If communication must happen, chose the least personal way possible (i.e., an email is less personal than a phone call or face-to-face meeting).
- Encourage your spouse to install someone as a go-between or intermediary between himself and the affair partner (i.e. the office manager in the story with the doctor and nurse above).
- Have a full disclosure policy, where your spouse is to tell you any/all communication and interaction with the affair partner.
- Use all of the tech tools to help rebuild trust, like Skype or FaceTime (which shows you are where you say you are and who’s with you), Find a Friend App or other GPS tracker. Look for other apps that might be helpful.
- Talk to your spouse about this week’s work schedule, so you’ll know what to expect. Plan to touch base every few hours with a quick text or phone call. Do this for as long as you need to.
- Ask your spouse not to work late without informing you first. If it’s an emergency, your spouse should call you and ask for your blessing and the two of you could discuss further options (i.e., you could go to the office and make sure everything is ok…)
- Ask your spouse not to ever be alone with the affair partner, which means no driving in the car alone together, no work lunches together, no business trips together. Exceptions could possibly be made in time as your comfort/trust increases.
- Keep an eye on how money is being spent. It’s really hard for someone to relapse and have an affair if he/she doesn’t have access to secret money.” You can read Dr. Nickerson’s full article here.
Learn more about Dr. Nickerson’s latest book: The Courage to Stay: How to Heal From an Affair and Save Your Marriage
When the affair partners work together, it obviously causes big problems. It also shakes the foundation of the betrayed spouse’s personal and family life. It can levy more trauma upon them when their unfaithful partner chooses to prioritize their professional or financial betterment by continuing to work with their affair partner.
I certainly realize that changing employment isn’t always possible, but unfortunately this typically leaves the betrayed spouse feeling alone, questioning the value of their marriage and the level of commitment their partner has towards them and the family. It creates a wedge between them, making it more difficult for them to move forward and trust again. Plus, it could make the couple more distant from each other and hurt their family relationship.
Studies (and feedback from our readers) show that cheating in the workplace is very common, and as you probably know, can lead to psychological distress such as anxiety, depression, and insecurity. The betrayed spouse requires reassurance and support in combating the emotional trauma and rebuilding the shattered trust.
If your, or your spouse’s affair partner was a co-worker – and remained so, what choices were made to help deal with the situation? Please reply in the comment section below. Thanks!
*This article originally posted on 10/27/2014 and updated on 4/18/2023